Parenting is one of the most taxing and rewarding things we can do. There are plenty that will disagree with me and that’s okay. We can be so overwhelmed with trying to take care of these humans that we forget that life is supposed to be fun. But the relationship gets tricky when we lean too far to either side of strictness and fun, what we can call the parent/friend line.
So what do I mean by that? There are actually 2 scenarios; the people that feel like they have to be a parent their whole life, demanding certain things even when their kids have grown up and those that try to be a friend to their kids their whole life, leaving out discipline and other structures.
Here are the disadvantages of each:
For the Strict parents who can’t let go:
Now I don’t want to say that once your kids are grown and gone that you shouldn’t care about what they’re doing or give them advice. But there is a huge difference in offering an opinion and demanding them to do what you say at the expense of your wrath.
One of the most important things parents can do is teach their child to think for himself/herself. When they are younger telling them not to do things to keep them from personal danger is something you should do. But still trying to manage their money or make them feel guilty for particular things they are doing when they are in college or beyond may be hurting them.
Kids grow up so quickly that we might not be ready to go from parent to friend but that’s when you start the transition during their teenage years.
Instead of telling them what they should do, advise them on what you think is the best action but leave the decision up to them, no strings attached. And by that I mean, your child can’t feel bad for not choosing what you suggest.
Yes, that can be hard, when you go through a certain experience and wish to keep your kids from any heartache of something similar. But you can’t control them forever nor should you try to!
For the parents who want to be the cool mom/dad:
Now to you parents that think being a friend and being cool is the only way to go, you’re hurting your children. Of course, you want your kids to respect you and hang out with you, but if you don’t want to discipline your kids because you don’t want to be like “that parent”, how are they going to know what is right and wrong?
You might actually be spoiling your kids more than you think by giving them whatever they want to be the cool parent. How will a child learn how to work for something? What will be their attitude on authority figures later on in life?
So what are we to do? How do we make sure that we can be both parent and friend, or at least bridge that at the right time?
Plan Your Parenting Style
We need to talk to our spouse about how we are going to parent. Yes, these plans can change (and quickly!) if our original method isn’t working. Being on the same page and not making a “good cop, bad cop” situation shows the kids that you are united. Each child will most likely need a different plan as they react in different ways.
It is possible to be firm but also have the relationship where your child can talk to you. The problem is just being consistent. If your child is misbehaving or not listening, stick with your discipline. After, make sure you show that you love them.
The article about Prince William kneels down to be at the same eye-level as Prince George is one of my favorites. It makes a huge difference to keep your child’s attention and help him/her listen when you explain why said behavior isn’t good, etc.
Start Raising Children by Teaching Now
It’s important to teach from the beginning, or even if your kids are older, start now. Even as young as a toddler, kids can learn and understand so much that by teaching about chores, or picking up toys and then advancing to the topics as they get older, it will be easier to navigate so many other situations in life.
Not every situation will be ideal for teaching things either. Sometimes, we’ll have to wait a little bit so we don’t explode. Others will just be simple two-sentence lectures at the time of the incident.
Kids don’t come preprogrammed to know exactly what is right and wrong, although being potty-trained would be awesome! That’s our job as parents. Take things one step at a time and learn to help them through the crazy world of a million decisions.
Show Love & Caring
When your child acts out or makes a mistake, use your parenting plan to discipline and then show love after. I understand it might not be the easiest thing to do but kids, teenagers, and adults alike all need a little bit of praise. They need to know that someone loves them.
Showing love doesn’t mean that we automatically buy them gifts and everything they want after. That’s like brushing your teeth and then offering cookies–pretty much no kid is going to bat an eye.
Remember that the way you react sends a message to your kids about how to react to situations in the future. If you are strict and harsh, that’s how the kids will think they are supposed to be. But if you discipline and then show your kids you love them, they will know the amount of love you have for them isn’t measured in the things they do or don’t do.
Listen to Your Kids & Give Advice when Asked
Listening to kids is a critical part of a strong family. You can learn a lot from the simple day-to-day activities, from how they are on a normal day to when something is bugging them on a rough day.
Going from home life to college or work life can be overwhelming all at first. But if we have given kids the opportunity to make their own decisions beforehand, they will know that they can come to us for advice with confidence. They will be able to speak freely, knowing that thinking differently isn’t a bad thing but can be a great learning experience.
As your children age and move out of the house, you’ll always be a parent but your relationship should be more about being there for them as a friend than as a disciplinarian.
Getting to that happy medium may seem difficult or even impossible right now. That’s why you make changes a little at a time and figure out where you are struggling and go from there. And I’m sure that it will be different with each kid. Take the time to be parent first and friend later, someone that enforces the rules you’ve set for your family as well as enjoy life with your family.
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